Brittany Maynard died on Nov. 1st 2014. Her story has been all over the media because she had already announced her intentions to end her life. Her main reason was the suffering caused by a growing, inoperable, fatal brain tumour. And the story was highlighted because she chose a physician-assisted suicide. And then, she actually did it. Surrounded by her closest family and friends in Oregon, Brittany breathed her last and went onwards to eternity.
Before taking the lethal dose of medication she wrote on Facebook,
Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more. The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!
And where were we? Oh yeah. At home discussing why she shouldn’t have done it. Chatting casually about the Biblical implications of suicide. And making assumptions about her eternal destination based on our own personal worldview. (Maybe you weren’t doing that. I know I was)
Yes, I disagree with her choice. But I respect her. She was a woman of value. A daughter of the Most High. Created in His image. And it’s a shame that we lost her.
Faced with her story (one that makes me question so many of my “non-questionable” beliefs) I choose to evaluate my life, not hers. I could share my perspective on what she should have done, what she should have believed and what she should have decided. Then, I could defend those positions using Scripture, stories from other cancer patients and my own passionate convictions. But what I should have done was find a way to help her before November 1st. Because my responsibility in Christ is not to judge. My privilege in Him is to love like He does.
The implications of her assisted death are massive. A whole movement is rising to give voice to those who want to end their lives early and legally. Yet I see it not as threat to our Christian values, but as an invitation to Christians everywhere. The world is looking for answers that go beyond the bill-board that says, “Jesus is the answer.” This generation is hungry for the real thing and we have an opportunity now to stop being fake.
In the last few days I have read a number of Christian articles disagreeing with her intentions and decision. And I honestly agree with most of what they are saying. But I agree more with the Gospel. And in those 4 books in the New Testament (the ones where we see Jesus living and teaching and healing and saving) I only see extravagant love. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” – John 3:17
Me? I believe in miracles. I have experienced them in my own life and seen them in the journey of others around me. I also believe in hope. That profound expectation for things to improve, to get better, to be transformed. Most of all I believe in Jesus. And He never once prioritized theology over humans. To Him a life was worth way more than a religious discussion. And He healed all who came to Him for help, because that is what He saw His Father doing.
I can tell you a hundred stories of people who did not get healed through prayer. I can tell you of people who recovered from disease because of doctors and medicine and a 200 thousand dollar hospital bill. And I can also talk about those who died too soon. But I also have a few stories of people who encounter God’s power in a way that cannot be explained. Men and women who in the last second, were healed and saved. So I choose those few super-natural stories. And I won’t let percentages dictate my faith.
I just wish that I would have had the guts to offer that to Brittany and her family. I regret not having the boldness of the early church. I know it’s still available. I guess it’s just waiting for a believer to believe.
Honestly, I don’t know if my prayers would have worked or not. But at least I could have presented the kindness and joy that Jesus died to offer us all. And hopefully by seeing a glimpse of heaven on earth, Brittany would have made the ultimate life and death decision there is: choosing Jesus and His Grace.
What I won’t do, is pretend like I know what I would have done in her situation. And I won’t assume any certainty on her final home. But I do know that God really loved Brittany. And He really, really loves us all. Of that I am certain! And I hope to treat everyone I meet with the beauty and compassion that that certainty demands.
My prayers are now with her family in this time of grieving. I don’t fully understand what that feels or looks like, but I know God does. And He’s available to them, and us, today.
Grace & Peace.
What to say about Assisted Suicide?